REAL ID Harder Than Legislators Thought

According to the Associated Press:

State motor vehicle officials nationwide who will have to carry out the Real ID Act say its authors grossly underestimated its logistical, technological and financial demands.

In a comprehensive survey obtained by The Associated Press and in follow-up interviews, officials cast doubt on the states’ ability to comply with the law on time and fretted that it will be a budget buster.

I’ve already written about REAL ID, including the obscene costs:

REAL ID is expensive. It’s an unfunded mandate: the federal government is forcing the states to spend their own money to comply with the act. I’ve seen estimates that the cost to the states of complying with REAL ID will be $120 million. That’s $120 million that can’t be spent on actual security.

According to the AP, I was way off:

Pennsylvania alone estimated a hit of up to $85 million. Washington state projected at least $46 million annually in the first several years.

Separately, a December report to Virginia’s governor pegged the potential price tag for that state as high as $169 million, with $63 million annually in successive years. Of the initial cost, $33 million would be just to redesign computing systems.

Remember, security is a trade-off. REAL ID is a bad idea primarily because the security gained is not worth the enormous expense.

See also the ACLU’s site on REAL ID.

Posted on January 13, 2006 at 1:23 PM23 Comments


Lyger January 13, 2006 2:48 PM

If enough states get together, they might be able to beat this. If they can demonstrate to the business community that it would be bad for business (disruptions when people aren’t allowed to fly, and whatnot), they could partner to get a repeal/extention bill written, and then make it politically dangerous to oppose it. (Or perhaps simply attached to another “must pass” bill.) It will take a hell of a lobbying effort, I think, but it could be done if the right people were pressured.

Mike Sherwood January 13, 2006 3:08 PM

Y2K was good for the economy. This would serve as a way to employ a lot of people for a few years.

I don’t see any problems in the current system that would really be solved by creating a national database. Just as you can buy a legit ID today, you’d be able to do it with the new system. Of course, the interesting part would be if someone were able to get into the database and do things like declare a bunch of people to be dead.

RvnPhnx January 13, 2006 3:08 PM

In cases like this the states should be able to use a referenda process to get the federal fsck-up repealed.
That’s my NSHO.

Tom January 13, 2006 4:07 PM

Y2K was good for the economy. This would serve as a way to employ a lot of people for a few years.

See “broken-window fallacy”.

theodoric January 13, 2006 4:12 PM

Y2K was good for the economy. This would serve as a way to employ a lot of people for a few years.

Alabama is in the process, right now, of deploying a new statewide driver’s license system. Since it was conceived and designed before the federal bill was passed last spring, it’s probably already non-compliant with REAL ID in a number of ways.

Tennessee and New Jersey have deployed new systems within the last five years; unless I misremember, Tennessee has done it twice in the last ten years. There are probably some other states in the process of deploying systems that Congress has already rendered obsolete, simply to have something to brag about in the 2006 election cycle.

Scott Rosen January 13, 2006 4:23 PM

It seems as though all the states are pretty much in agreement that complying with Real ID would be an extremely costly exercise of little real value.

This being the case, why don’t they simply agree not to comply and shift the burden back to the Federal government?

According the the Act:

“(11) In any case in which the State issues a driver’s license or identification card that does not satisfy the requirements of this section, ensure that such license or identification card—
(A) clearly states on its face that it may not be accepted by any Federal agency for federal identification or any other official purpose; and
(B) uses a unique design or color indicator to alert Federal agency and other law enforcement personnel that it may not be accepted for any such purpose.”

OK, so the states all agree to disregard the Act, and announce that as of 2008, they will simply be adding a bright orange warning label to their driver’s licenses saying that they are not valid for Federal identification purposes.

What is the federal government going to do in response? Is the social security administration really going to say that people cannot use drivers licenses as valid identification anymore? If so, fine – let the federal government come up with a solution to the problem. If they want a national ID card – let it be debated and try to find the votes to get that approved and paid for. Doesn’t seem likely.

If only one state did this, the federal government could put pressure on them – withholding federal highway funds, etc. But if every state refused?

I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know how the courts would look at this rebellion, but I would think the federal government would have a pretty hard time convincing the public that suing all the states to comply with an outrageously expensive, invasive, badly conceived law was good public policy.

Richard Braakman January 13, 2006 5:45 PM

About Y2K: I’m fairly sure that this was what caused the crash in 2000, as well as the bubble just before it. Many IT projects, especially ones for replacing equipment or redesigning existing systems, were moved to be before 2000 in order to get the Y2K compatibility upgrade for free. This created a tension in the market, and a frenzy of activity. Then in 2000, after the ran-over-deadline projects were completed, all those moved projects left a gap. We got a lull which was magnified by the contrast with the activity just before, and the effects cascaded through the whole economy.

Bixby January 13, 2006 10:10 PM

Trevor at January 13, 2006 09:15 PM said:
“too many Americans are apathetic boobs.”

My first impulse was to agree mightily! …But I don’t think it’s the citizens of our potentially-great country who are the boobs, it’s the individuals with no scruples who bribe (politicians, corporations) and the greedmongers who accept bribes (media) who are the true boobs here.

Threat of tyranny (such as “real” ID) is what fuels terrorism, this is important for us not to forget.

Probitas January 14, 2006 8:06 AM

“But I don’t think it’s the citizens of our potentially-great country who are the boobs, it’s the individuals with no scruples who bribe (politicians, corporations) and the greedmongers who accept bribes (media) who are the true boobs here.”

One would also have to count as boobs the 40% of the eligible citizenry who do actually get up off their sofa to vote, only to re-elect the politicos and greedmongers at obscenely high rates. As for the rest of the populace, whether or not we are apathetic boobs is something that will only be borne out following…

Oooooh, look! Something shiny!

Jarrod Frates January 14, 2006 12:12 PM

This reminds me of a comment you made in response to one of my posts in the linked weblog entry:

“[I]f we’re stuck with a national ID, how to we make them as good as possible? I think we need to do both, actually. We need to fight a national ID, and we need to answer that question.

I don’t have an answer for you, but I hope to write about it soon.”

Perhaps it’s time to consider this further?

Bruce Schneier January 14, 2006 2:26 PM

@ Jarrod Frates

Definitely. I have notes, and I hope to write a Wired column on it.

I am also on a panel at RSA on National ID, so I definitely have to think about this before mid February.

Dave January 16, 2006 9:44 AM

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” – Abraham Lincoln

Anonymous January 16, 2006 11:06 AM

Y2K was good for the economy. This would serve as a way to employ a lot of people for a few years.

Non productive busy work, paid for out of the pockets of taxpayers (and hence the businesses who lost revenue to those taxes) does not help the economy.

Greygeek January 16, 2006 3:03 PM

Conservatives in the US have long dreamed of sticking us with an SS card. Apparently they believe “if Hitler had one, it must be something we want.”

RvnPhnx January 17, 2006 8:33 AM

Good selection of quote!
@Bixby & @Probitas
You forget to differentiate between the nefarious boobs and the parasitic ones…(I agree on the presence of apathetic ones as well…)

zenray January 18, 2006 10:04 AM

One other aspect of the REAL ID is that it ties a person’s permit to drive a car together with your ID. A lot of places are asking to swipe my DL to validate checking information before accepting checks. What happens to your ID card when you lose it under a DWI charge? Here in Texas it’s revoked and cut in half. Your identity is gone. Your access to Federal Buildings, airplane travel, etc, gone or greatly hampered requiring ‘other forms of identification’. What would happen if you are out jogging and the cops demand your ID card? Transforming a permit to drive into an ID card is not right. If ‘they’ want everybody to have a National ID ‘they’ should set up the system and pay for it. What about people who don’t drive? How are they going to get their identity? Are people who don’t drive required to get their states ID card?

OneIdea September 5, 2006 4:13 PM

Here’s an idea: Suppose only ONE STATE (such as New Hampshire) opts out of the stupid RealID system. Someone could set up a business providing a NH address and home phone number for anyone else anywhere in the country wishing to have their “legal for driving license purpose” address in NH, and all it takes is a trip to NH office of DMV to get your “new” license once a year. Presto, you’re driving as a “visitor” in your actual state of residence and the whole point of RealID is subverted. All it would take is a small percentage of freedom minded Americans doing this before the futility of the overall system would be apparent to everyone and it would fall apart on its own…

Alan July 3, 2007 3:12 PM

“Those who would give up essential liberty for a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Dusty Reed April 2, 2008 6:03 AM

If we all opt out of drivers licenses, they cannot put us all in jail. If everybody simply refuses to fly, the airline industry will force the government to change its plan. I do not need to go into federal buildings, nor will I comply with Real ID. If everyone simply balks, the plan will be about as effective as CB licenses. The simple truth is that if most people do not comply, they lose all control. This is what is going on with illegals presently, they buy a junk car for cash, drive without insurance, and laugh at the law. Maybe they are ahead of the curve…

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